Brussels, 9 February 1995
Amerindian and peasant communities fleeing guerrilla insurgents in Peru's jungle are being guaranteed access to basic health care thanks to a project funded by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO).
ECHO has earmarked 140,000 Ecu for a programme Artsen Zonder Grenzen/Medecins Sans Frontieres-Holland are managing over the next six months. The MSF team will help provide basic health services for some 40,000 people, including about 8,500 Ashaninka Amerindians, one of the most threatened populations of native Indians on the continent.
All have been driven from their extraordinarily fertile land by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) guerrillas. They are sheltering in the Mazamari and Pangoa rural areas and the Perene River basin, all areas that are particularly hard to reach because of the security risk. There is no health cover in this area other than that provided by an MSF team which started work in July 1994.
MSF has been working closely with Peruvian team members. It now aims to set up basic health care systems that Peru's Ministry of Health can maintain. The ECHO grant will pay for special equipment needed in jungle conditions, for medical kits and medicines, and for training.
BACKGROUND : ECHO
In recent years, the world has faced major crises in humanitarian terms (Kurdistan, Bangladesh, famine and civil wars in Africa, Eastern and Southern Europe, including former Yugoslavia and Albania) which highlighted a need to improve the response of the international community and, in particular, of the European Union to both natural and man-made disasters.
Since 1970 the European Community has considered humanitarian aid to developing and other third countries as an important part of its responsibilities. It saw that in order to respond more efficiently to these crises it must coordinate and concentrate resources. It became evident that an effort to provide immediate, efficient appropriate and better coordinated help to countries and people who needed it was an imperative. Hence the decision on 6 November 1991 creating ECHO, at the initiative of European Commission Vice-President Manuel MARIN.
The mandate received by ECHO from the Commission was to take full responsibility for a coherent administration of the following tasks (outside the borders of the Community) which had previously been carried out by several services within the Commission:
(a) Humanitarian Aid
(b) Emergency Food Aid
(c) Prevention and disaster preparedness activities
Apart from concentrating and re-organising the Commission's internal resources, increased efficiency was to be achieved through better external coordination with the Commission's partners (NGOs, UN agencies and international organisations), closer relations with Member States, disaster preparedness and readiness to engage in direct actions if other solutions were not available or inadequate.
The Commission formally created ECHO on 1 April 1992; the organisation become fully operational at the beginning of 1993. In order to carry out the various aspects of its mandate and respond to the numerous crises during 1993 with a total allocation level of around 600 million ECU.
For 1993 alone, around 600 million ECU (i.e. approx. 700 million USD) has been allocated for humanitarian aid to : ex-Yugoslavia (63.4 per cent), the rest of Eastern europe (0.1 per cent), ACP countries (16.1per cent), the republics of the former Soviet Union (8.2 per cent), Iraq (3.4 per cent), the rest of Asia (3.2 per cent), Latin America (2.0 per cent), and North Africa (3.6 per cent).